Teacher Training Fails Us

It is my opinion, and I am certainly influenced by my own experience, that teachers are being let down by inadequate and highly pressured teacher training.  I believe that student teachers are not given enough exposure to practical teaching experiences and are left unprepared for the classroom upon entering the profession.

I remember how difficult it was for me to adjust to life as a teacher in the first year in particular.  On only a one-year contract, I felt I couldn’t approach colleagues for advice, because without their respect, I felt I wouldn’t earn a second contract.  Instead I had to work it out on my own, as quickly as possible, to restore the faith my school had in me when they employed me.

I found my University course high on pressure and theory, but low on substance and opportunities to observe teachers and teach classes.  I remember almost having to repeat a full year of the course because I failed an assignment for Sport.  I had to submit a series of lesson plans for Sport (not a discipline I have a passion for).  My lessons were very well-developed – except for one detail that awarded me an automatic fail.  In one of the lessons, I let the students pick the teams themselves.  Whilst I realise that I should have known better, I almost had to repeat the full year (regardless of how well I was doing in other subjects), because I failed that assignment.

That’s why I agree with the submission by Michael Grove in the UK, that plans to shift the focus of teacher training from universities to schools.

It says that “too little teacher training takes place on the job” and proposes the creation of a national network of “teaching schools” based on the model of teaching hospitals.

Mr Gove said that great teaching was a mix of academic and “emotional” intelligence, and working with children and exceptional teachers would enable trainees to grasp this fact.

So many teachers leave the profession because they found it too difficult in the early years.  Others quit during the training period because they are so worn out by assignments and hurdle requirements that have little resemblance to the realities of a classroom.

My advice to teachers in training is to hang tough, get back to the reason why you signed up for this wonderful profession and try to get through.

I feel a lot more confidant in the classroom now.  No thanks to my training though …

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2 Responses to “Teacher Training Fails Us”

  1. caridwen Says:

    My advice to students in education classes is just to do whatever they tell them to do to get the grades that they need. Then, spend the first year in your own classroom actively forgetting all of the useless information you learned about Hunter method this and advance organizer that and just re-learn all over again what your students feel like at their age, what they love, what they hate, what they need, what they want, and what they respond best to. The five things a teacher actually needs to learn as regards 1. discipline and 2. teaching in general are NOT taught in education classes. Here they are, gratis, for all to employ at will, from someone who had to learn them completely through personal experience and is truly thankful she did:

    Part the First: Discipline:

    1. DON’T YELL. You can cultivate a louder, no-nonsense tone of voice, but it shouldn’t raise much over the volume you would be at in a crowded room at a party. It’s the tone you use, not the volume, that will get their attention; you can take to the bank any kid you want to yell at hears plenty of yelling in his or her life already and isn’t hearing that anymore.
    2. Practice & perfect “The Look”. This is a highly individual thing as far as how it looks is concerned, but you HAVE to have a fear and awe inspiring look, & you have to be able to hold it without flinching, blinking, or breaking from it, for about 30-45 seconds at the far end. Trot it out only on the most serious occasions.
    3. Learn how to arch an eyebrow & cock your head as a response. Sometimes, this should be used at the end of The Look to extend your control of the situation & elicit an apology or a promise to stop the undesired behavior.
    4. NEVER call a student out in front of the class. Have him or her stay after class and chat privately. If you are giving negative feedback orally, make sure it is not to shame the student, but rather to elicit help from his or her peers (i.e., if you are calling someone out for cheating, sleeping in class, being disrespectful to you, etc. – that’s a personal one-on-one discussion. If you are calling someone out for not having homework or for not preparing well for a test or something like that, then you can, in the right conditions, frame it as a request for help for the student: “did you think to have someone proofread it for you? Maybe someone in here could look over your next paper for you. Henry’s a good writer – Henry, would you be willing to proofread her paper for her?” etc. etc. – foster a sense of community. Discipline is for stopping undesired behavior, not tearing kids down.
    5. Leave your Ego at the door every day. You don’t wear your best dresses or your most flashy clothes to work, because they might get ripped, torn, tattered, etc. Why not extend that same courtesy to your Ego, which is also inevitably going to suffer wear and tear? You’re not a god, you’re a teacher. Sooner you come off your pedestal and get dirty with your kids on the academic playground, no matter what age they are, the better off all of you are. If (when) you make mistakes, “mess up and fess up” and then learn from them and move on. They’ll respect and care about your class and, by extension, you, more if you are not trying to be perfect teacher person all the time. Just teach.

    Bonus discipline tip: DON’T YELL.

    Part the Second: Everything Else

    1. Be quick and effusive with praise for any and all positive moments, group and individual. The only time it’s OK to call a student out in front of his or her peers as an individual is to praise, but you can do this as much as you like.
    2. Study your students as people as well as your students. Getting to know the individual can help you understand the student, and you’ll be much better positioned to give the kid the help s/he needs. If they resist getting to know you, don’t push, just observe them. As long as they know you like them (even if you don’t really like them, you should try to let them know you are here for them) they’ll come around. If they don’t, there isn’t anything you can do. You can’t “save” everybody, but you can always do your best to at least try.
    3. Laugh at yourself as much as at anything else. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your job and with your mistakes and human nature.
    4. Teach what you love. Make it meaningful and relevant. Don’t expect the students to care about your subject more than anyone else’s just because it’s your favorite thing in the world, but expect that they learn the skills you are trying to teach them. If you are invested and having a good time, the students will be invested and having a good time.
    5. Everybody has “those days”. Sometimes, “those days” last for several weeks at a time. Ride through it and learn from it. Self-reflection is a hallmark of the truly effective teacher – if it doesn’t work, “mess up, fess up, try something else”.

    Bonus everything else tip: Remember why you’re in it, hold tight to that, and have fun!

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